Every place has an understory, the place that existed before the first human footfall. Even the wildest backcountry might be a ghost of some earlier version of itself. In The Once and Future World, J. B. MacKinnon goes looking for that world untouched by human hands. He revisits a globe exuberant with life, where lions roam North America and twenty times more whales swim in the sea, and looks forward to a world where nature is once again a formidable presence in our lives.
Along the way, the author discovers that the environmental crisis we face today has been well under way for hundreds of years. Ours is now a “ten percent world”—a planet with one-tenth its former natural abundance. MacKinnon brings a new perspective to such iconic narratives as the extinction of the passenger pigeon, the collapse of Easter Island, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. By tracing our longstanding pattern of denial and self-delusion when it comes to the vanishing wilderness, MacKinnon helps us to see more clearly our true role in shaping the nature around us. We choose the natural world that we live in—a choice that also decides the kind of people we are.